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Serving Food


Techniques > Tipping > Waiting Table > Serving Food

Description | Discussion | See also



Serve the food with due decorum and

Arrive with as many plates as you can safely carry and as appropriate for the restaurant. Some places prefer you to carry only two or use a tray or have help. Of course it is important for people to start eating together so ensure they get food at the same time.

Traditionally, food should be served from the person's left and taken away from their right. Depending on how tables are packed, you may or may not be able to do this. Whatever the arrangement, you should always avoid reaching across people if at all possible and, if necessary, beg their pardon.

When placing the plate, deliberately rotate it so it is most convenient to eat or most appealing to view. For example you can put it so the main food is on one side and there is space on the other side for vegetables, so the person does not have to reach over the top of one  bit of food to get to another.

When placing side dishes, do so with the same care. If you need to clear the table to place other dishes, you can do this just beforehand rather than having to juggle or ask the customers to do so.

If you are serving vegetables or putting things on their plates, ensure there is enough to go around, but be reasonably generous, asking beforehand if they would like each item and giving time in a brief pause for them to refuse.

Do also offer them condiments like sauces and so on (make sure these are easily available beforehand). And also check the drinks and ask if there is anything else they need.

As you back away, you can make a giving gesture (hands forward and down, palms out) and say something like 'Enjoy!'

Do also keep an eye on the table shortly after in case there is an issue and return to the table later to check that everything is still ok.

Clear away dishes with reasonable alacrity -- people do not like having dirty dishes drying in front of them.


Serving food is one of the longest times you will be with the customer. Whilst you should not tarry, this is an excellent opportunity to show yourself as a caring person, smiling and paying attention to everyone (especially the person who is likely to pay the check).

Rotating the plate is a little trick to show you are a professional and care that much more about them and the food.

Getting the customer to help you make space on the table can actually be beneficial as it brings you closer together as you work on a joint task. Feeling closer to you, they then may give you a bigger tip.

See also

Serving Wine, Managing Mistakes


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